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Meet the expert > Betty Hutchon

Betty Hutchon

Betty HutchonWhere did you study/what did you study/what are your qualifications?

I studied Occupational Therapy in Belfast at the Ulster University and qualified in 1978. After graduation I came to London and continued with my studies pursuing very specialised post graduate qualifications in developmental paediatrics.

I trained in The Brazelton Neonatal Behavioural Assessment Scale in Boston and got my certification via Harvard Medical School in 1992 and became one of only two Brazelton trainers in the UK in 1998. I also trained in Boston in the Neonatal Individualised Developmental Care Assessment Programme (NIDCAP) and qualified in 1995.

In 1999, I trained in Prechtl’s neurological assessment of general movements in Austria and went on to study this technique at an advanced level in Italy, completing several more courses and also running training courses on this neurological assessment at Cambridge University.

I studied Research Design and Statistics to MSc level in the University of East London in the late 1990s.

My qualifications in the last few years include receiving my certification in the Newborn Behavioural Observation (NBO) and qualifying as an NBO tutor in Boston 2009.

Having studied in the UK, USA, Austria and Italy my qualifications are quite international!


Professional Experience

I am head of paediatric Occupational Therapy for the Royal Free Hospital and the London borough of Camden and over the years have worked with all ages, from birth to 18 years in hospital, home, school and community settings. I am now responsible for overseeing the work of 11 staff and ensuring we have a top quality paediatric OT service. Visit the website >

In addition, I am also a Consultant Neurodevelopmental Therapist for the North Central London Perinatal Network covering University College London Hospital, the Whittington Hospital and Barnet Hospital; an honorary lecturer at the Institute of Child Health in University College London (UCL) and teach child development and developmental assessment to medical students.

Over the past 2 decades my work has focused on preterm infants and neurodevelopmental follow up, with particular interest in the early identification of neurological and developmental difficulties in order to target intervention. I was delighted when in 2004 my follow-up study of preterm infants using Prechtl's General Movements assessment and the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II was awarded first prize for ‘Research with Children’ at Great Ormond St Hospital and the Institute of Child Health, London.

As board member of the North Central London Perinatal Network I have responsibility for the neurodevelopmental follow up programme for high-risk infants for several London hospitals. I am also a member of the Nursing Advisory Board of Bliss – a registered charity concerned with preterm infants.

I have been teaching and training psychologists, neonatologists, paediatricians and therapists on the Bayley-III for the past 6 years and before that taught the Bayley Scales of Infant Development - Second Edition (BSID-II) for ten years. This role has taken me all over the world to places as far flung as Brazil, South Africa, Australia and Malaysia. I advise on research projects using the Bayley and consult and collaborate with researchers from all around the world.

I am the co-author of the very popular ‘Bobath’ Course - ‘Early Assessment & Intervention for Babies & Young Children’.  Bobath is a type of neurodevelopment therapy (NDT) used mainly by physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists when treating children with cerebral palsy and we have been teaching therapists all over the world since 2001. So far we have taught the course in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Italy, Kuwait, Ireland and Germany. I feel very fortunate to have had such a lot of experience in a great many places.

I review articles for ‘Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology’ and the ‘Archives of Disease in Childhood’.

My publications include a chapter on ‘Occupational Therapy in the NICU’ in Occupational Therapy In Childhood (Chia & Howard) and a chapter on ‘Early Interventions with Infants and Families’ in The Newborn as a Person (Nugent and Brazelton). Recent publications include an article on infant crying written for a parenting magazine and an article on ‘Developmental Care’ for Bliss.  Recent posters include ‘Using the NBAS as a Neurobehavioural Tool in Early Intervention’ presented in Germany.

I am a founder member of the Brazelton Centre in Great Britain, which is a registered charity:


What are your current projects?

I am currently applying for a research grant to design an intervention programme for high risk infants and if successful it will result in a book for parents and therapists to be used with any high risk infant both in the neonatal unit and after discharge to improve developmental outcomes.

Having recently completed the UK and Ireland validation study on the Bayley III with Pearson (which is already published) we are now planning online training on the Bayley III which is an exciting new challenge!

I am also working with Dr Joanna Hawthorne at the Brazelton Centre to develop the Newborn Behavioural Observation (NBO) in the UK and we are currently actively involved in training large numbers of health visitors as well as other health professionals in this very valuable tool. We have just recently made a film with the parent channel aimed at parents to help them recognise their infant’s behavioural cues. 

In UCLH we are using the Bayley growth scores and chart to look at the developmental trajectory of preterm infants and how that compares to term infants. We hope to be able to publish our data in due course. 


Who have you worked with?

I have been incredibly lucky to work with many very well-known people including Professor Brazelton and Professor Prechtl.  I also had the chance to work with the BBC on several Scientific BBC television programmes including ‘Child of our Time’ with Professor Lord Winston on the developmental abilities of two-year-olds.

I have presented at many national and international conferences all over the world including being invited to present as a keynote speaker at the European Academy of Childhood Disability in Edinburgh in 2004. There my presentation was titled ‘The management of regulatory difficulties and motor disturbance in infants with neurological dysfunction’ and was invited to give a joint presentation with Professor Mijna Hadders-Algra, from the Dept. of Developmental Neurology, University of Groningen, The Netherlands. 

As much of my work overlaps infant mental health, I have collaborated with several renowned child psychiatrists and have had the honour of meeting Stanley Greenspan and bringing his Floortime training to London. Through my work at the Brazelton Centre I have had the opportunity to meet Daniel Stern, Ed Tronick, and Barry Lester. These famous authors have enabled me to learn a great deal about developmental psychology, parenting, infant mental health and the regulatory behaviours of infants. 


What inspired you to get into this field?

I always knew I wanted to work in paediatrics and early on in my career became very interested in neurology and more specifically neurodevelopment. The work of people like Dr Brazelton and Professor Prechtl is particularly fascinating and truly inspirational. Working with new parents is incredibly rewarding and knowing that developmental interventions can make a difference to outcomes is a strong motivator.


If you weren’t an Occupational Therapist what would you be?

Probably a teacher or a psychologist – or just a full time mother!  For fun I would say I would quite like to be a travel writer!


What do you do away from work? Hobbies? Favourite bands/sports teams/holiday destinations?

I have a lot of family commitments as my youngest daughter owns a horse and this takes up a lot of time going back and forth to the stables, mucking out, grooming and so on! I am looking forward to when she is old enough to drive! I also love cooking and do quite a bit of entertaining friends. I go to Ireland a lot as I have a huge extended family there including my mother, 4 brothers and 4 sisters and their families! Where my mother lives in Donegal is a different world - very wild and beautiful and near the sea and I don’t think I could have survived all these years in London without that escape.

I have always been curious about other countries and cultures and I enjoy travelling to new places so it’s been wonderful to be able to combine my passion for my work with my love of travelling. A few years ago after teaching the Bayley in Kuala Lumper my eldest daughter and I spent 5 memorable days in the rainforest in the small island of Lang Kawai.

Work in Queensland allowed me to learn to scuba dive in the Barrier Reef.  A few years ago I worked in Soweto in Johannesburg with children with Cerebral Palsy and there is a charity there that I hope to do some more work for in the near future.  My favourite holiday destination though has to be Barbados. I went there with my husband and our 3 children a few years ago and it was paradise.

Hobbies include anything active - walking, running, cycling and kayaking and my daughter and I indulge in a personal trainer who teaches us kick-boxing! I never have enough time to pursue my hobbies but as the children move on to university I hope to have more free time at weekends.


What’s your favourite book?

I really like factual books and don’t read many novels. King Leopold’s Ghost stands out as a fascinating account of the history of the Congo and it helped me to grasp where the roots of so many of the contemporary problems in Africa lie.  I have also enjoyed John Simpson’s books and his stories of all the strange people he has met and peculiar places he has come across during his travels as a BBC news journalist.


What’s your favourite album?

I don’t have one all-time favourite album but at the minute I’m enjoying Robert Plant and ‘Band of Joy’. I adore the Rolling Stones and all their albums and have been to see them live many times - hopefully Mick Jagger won’t retire for a very long time!


Who’s your favourite musician?

Being Irish I have to pick one of our great musicians so I’m going to opt for Van Morrison.


Betty Hutchon is head of paediatric Occupational Therapy for the Royal Free Hospital and the London Borough of Camden.

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